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HouseWiringQuestion -- ProllySimpleStuff... Sorry

Discussion in 'Electronic Basics' started by James, Sep 7, 2003.

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  1. James

    James Guest

    Ok, hire an eletrician. That out of the way...

    in my mothers older house she had added on a porch, and a room offset
    from the main house. She hired uh... well, i guess you could say
    people doing side jobs, they wired the room/porch on two separate
    circuits. Both worked for years, but recently one started acting up.

    The only change I know of is an extra single pole switch was added
    next to an existing one (the single plastic box was replaced with a
    double gang box). I know only what I've read in the last week in
    several books sooo.. NOW there are only two cables coming in or out,
    and one goes straight to a wall light that was added, meaning there
    was only one (2wire?) cable coming in originally, with a black, white
    and ground wire. Simple enough to wire to a single pole switch eh?
    It doesn't make a difference where the white or black wire screw in
    does it, top or bottom? anyway got white at top and ground to the
    ground screw. Did both switches that way, even though I believe the
    second switch just goes to the light and the light is not wire to
    anything else, a closed circuit there.

    Well crapolla neither one works, you would think ONE or the other
    would work, each one is wired completely to a single cable ...

    Here's the mystery to me... I use a circuit tester (with the little
    neon bulb), touch black to ground = neon on
    white to ground = neon on
    black to white = nothing

    the same thing happens in a receptacle elsewhere in the circuit.

    from reading white to ground should = nothing

    a symptom is... the circuit works on rare occassions for a couple days
    and off for weeks, or month or more...

    Is there a short somewhere, wouldn't a short flip the circuit breaker
    (it doesn't flip) ? how about it being grounded early in the
    circuit... say a wire became corroded in a fixture box (one box might
    have gotten water in it at one time or more, unsure though) Would that
    cause the entire circuit to fail?

    Sorry to ask such a question here, but don't know where else.. any

    Thanks for any help you can give

  2. James

    James Guest

    Tom Thanks for taking the time to answer.

    Going into the panel box isn't something I'm looking forward to. It's
    a little more complicated then changing a switch/receptacle/etc.,
    which is all I was geared up for.

    Prior to that drastic(for me) step, I'm going to pull every outlet and
    see what's to see. Read somewhere about corroded or dirty contacts
    might cause a ground? There are a couple fixtures on the porch, who
    knows, the circuit has been going off and on for the better part of a
    year so and extra week or two preparation won't hurt.

    Again thanks, gives me another place to look.

  3. Grumpy OM

    Grumpy OM Guest


    I had a similar problem. Traced it to an outlet in the bathroom
    where my wife plugs in her hair dryer. First check outlets where high
    current devices have been used. Since this is an older house also note
    if aluminum wiring is used. This can cause all sorts of trouble.

  4. JeffM

    JeffM Guest

    my mother...hired...people doing side jobs...
    This is how your house is wired
    (starting from the transformer on the pole).

    breaker individual switch
    (2 poles) breaker
    ___ ___ 110V (black) /
    ______ __o o________o o__________________o/ ____ switched 110V <----
    ) || ( . |
    ) || ( . |
    ) || ( . neutral for upper (zero volts) white |
    ) || ( . _________________________________________ |
    1100V ) || ( . |
    ) || ( . | neutral for lower (zero volts) white
    ) || (_________|________________________________________ 220V
    ) || ( . |
    ) || ( . | ground (at the panel) green
    ) || ( . __|__ (REALLY zero volts) |
    ) || ( . ___ |
    ) || ( . _ |
    ) || ( ___ ___ 110V(black) / |
    ______) || (__o o________o o__________________o/ ____ switched 110V <----
    From black to ground is 110V.
    From black to white is 110V.
    From white to green better be no more than 3V.

    Highly unlikely, but bad contact
    might cause a voltage drop under high current
    (> 3V white-to-green)

    Wire colors at a switch don't mean much.
    The jack-leg guys might have done them either direction.
    (I wish the National Electric Code
    specified a color for switched 110V,
    other than black or white.)

    Remember, the mark of a wise man
    is knowing when to call in a pro.

    Jeff (also a grumpy old man)
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